Before the holidays completely take over, we should pause and enjoy September. Now is a great time to go whale watching! Currently, there are six different species of whales along our coasts. Since school is in full swing, I’m going to take you on an edventure. Let’s journey from the Atlantic to the Pacific up into the Bering Sea, and learn about some of our mammal friends.
Background. Whales divide into two groups of cetaceans – baleen and toothed. Baleen whales have baleen plates that filter their food (small fish and plankton). Baleen comes from the same protein that makes up our hair and fingernails. Baleen whales are more prominent in size and generally slower. Toothed whales eat prey larger than baleen whales. Toothed whales have one blowhole whereas baleen whales have two. Whales pick up sound waves through their jawbones. Some toothed whales use echolocation to hunt and make their way through the ocean. They emit clicks to sense their surroundings and to help locate food. The sperm whales' clicks are the loudest sound produced in the animal kingdom at 230 decibels.
Humpbacks. Recognizable by their size, knobby heads, and distinguishable flukes. Flukes are like fingerprints. Each fluke has different black and white markings and edging. They are the most playful whales with their breaching, and tail and flipper slapping. They like to sing as well. Some songs last over 30 minutes. To feed, they use a tactic called ‘bubble netting’. They exhale a series of bubbles to herd their food. Then, they swim opened-mouth into the bubble net. Dinner is served. Locate humpbacks in Alaska, California, Massachusetts, and Maine.
Gray. Gray whales are the most watched whales as they do not venture very far off the coasts. Of the larger whales, they are considered one of the smallest. You can identify them from their small, narrow heads, and the arch between their snout and blowhole. They are inquisitive and friendly. Gray whales like to come up to boats and in shallow waters, ride the surf. Gray whales enjoy flapping their tails, breaching, and spyhopping, which is where a whale pokes its head vertically out of the water to get a better look at its surroundings. Gray whales migrate the farthest over a lifetime. A gray whale will travel over 15,000km in one year. Imagine the looks of a whale’s Fitbit? Locate gray whales in Alaska, Washington, and Oregon.
Blue. Blue whales are one of the largest baleen whales ever to exist. They weigh between 150,000-180,000kg. They are long and slender with an arched splashguard on top of their heads to protect their blowholes. When feeding, 50-80 grooves in their throat expand. Blue whales swim alone or in pairs. However, they are believed to communicate with other blue whales up to 1,000km away. Ever think a young blue whale uses the excuse that it didn’t hear what their parent blue whale said because it was too far away?? Locate blue whales in California during September.
If you have any suggestions or tips you would like to add, don’t hesitate to send me a quick email. Happy Travels!
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